The Rise and Reason Behind The 2022-23 School Year’s New Mantra


Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

“You must have a note from the Nurse to use the elevator. Your cooperation and commitment to CITIZENSHIP is appreciated!” reads a laminated piece of paper outside of the elevator wall on all four floors. “CITIZENSHIP” is the largest word on the page and is typed out in rainbow colors, Parker’s royal blue logo proudly rests above it. With three months of school down, it seems an impossible feat to avoid the word citizenship as it’s been yelled from the auditorium stage, hashtagged at the end of emails, and occasionally uttered by students in between passing periods. Citizenship is the word of this school year, and this was intentional.

Head of Upper School, Christopher Arnold is one of a handful of administrators at Parker who decided this theme for the new school year. Their conversations around Citizenship began at the end of the 2021-22 school year, and they aim for this theme to carry into the school years to follow. “I’m really hoping that it really kind of carries into the following years and keeps building and building. So if you’re a freshman this year, by the time you leave here you’ve got citizenship,” Arnold said.

The word citizenship was chosen intentionally, instead of words such as “leader” or “community member.” “If everyone’s leading who’s following and being a community member, there’s a little bit of passivity to that,” Arnold said. “You

could, you know, live in a community and be like, Yeah, I’m in the community, but I don’t cut my grass. Being a citizen, it’s an active thing. You have to choose to do it, there’s tangible benchmarks to it.”

In Parker’s very mission, the idea of being a citizen is centered: “Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.” The administration is hopeful that the focus this year will help students resonate with the idea even more.

“The overall goal of the Upper School is we’re creating people to go live in a diverse society. No matter what happens, we just hope that you go out and you are a good citizen. On top of being a good citizen, you spread that message and spread that word. It’s my hope that every student in this building turns 18 years old, that they register and they go out and vote,” Arnold said.

While respecting the elevator rules and not shouting in the library are some tangible ways to prove your good citizenship within the school, the bigger importance is ensuring students have “a sense of awareness.” Arnold believes that as the Upper School, “ultimately what we’re doing is we’re sending a message to the Middle School,” and from there it gets passed down to the Lower School students. Citizenship is

not just a concept aimed to stay within the fourth floor classrooms. “We are the leaders of how people act,” Arnold said.

This theme for the school does not only apply to students and has been introduced to the faculty as well. During faculty meetings there have been norms set and input gathered from teachers. “We are really trying to empower the teachers and be like, you have the power to make sure there is citizenship,” Arnold said.

Sophomore Benjamin Graines has been exposed to citizenship in his inbox and on stage a few times. “I see it in my emails a lot and also during graderoom. We talk about it there a lot,” Graines said. “I think it’s supposed to be making sure people respect each other and care for each other.”

While he understands it’s supposed to “make Parker a nice environment,” he hasn’t felt many personal effects yet. “I don’t know if it really impacted me this year,” Graines said.

Senior Litzy Taffola similarly recounts receiving notes on citizenship in “teacher sent out messages and lessons in class.” “I think it’s good that they are trying to incorporate it into our lives. It’s the theme of the year,” Taffola said.

She questions how this theme will carry into the future: if it will, if not what it will be. “I question what they’ll do for future years,” Tafolla said. “When the

seniors graduate, will it change to a different theme? How will I keep my citizenship in Parker?”

Ella Goodman is a freshman who is new to Parker this year. She recalls citizenship being emphasized especially in the Bridge Program, which took place late in the summer, and right before classes started. “At the bridge program and fresh-man orientation they did really emphasize community and citizenship,” Goodman said. “They have upperclassmen come in to talk to you. You can just tell that there’s just like a really strong sense of community.

Already this fall, Arnold has seen a positive change amongst the community. “I’m definitely seeing a little bit more sense of happiness, pride, joy,” Arnold said. He hopes to keep this energy up and have further conversations, bring in speakers, as well as continue the conversation “in any email I [he] sends out.”